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Page last updated at 17:55 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 18:55 UK
Ray Davies' London

The self-styled Muswell Hillbilly had a "blissful" childhood in a large family, he tells us, but finds it hard to be in his own company unless he's writing a song.

Ray Davies
The London-born musician founded The Kinks with his brother Dave in the early 1960s

What's your favourite neighbourhood?

It is, or was, in New Orleans and I'll tell you why. I moved there eight years ago and rented a place and it reminded me of north London: tree-lined, not too many high buildings and the sun seemed to hit it at the right time.

So it was a rebirth of my childhood, and I'd have to say it's north London for me. It's to do with the light and the cloud formations.

Your favourite building?

Alexandra Palace
Alexandra Palace "represents every aspect of my journey through life", says Davies

Architecture interests me to a degree. The primary school I went to, St James', is no longer there and that was a beautiful, cottage-style building. I'd have to say the Palace, Alexandra Palace, is an interesting building.

I can see it from our studio [Konk Studios] and the view from there represents every aspect of my journey from childhood through life, from the house I grew up in to where I got married to the asylum I went to (laughs). You can see it all from Ally Pally.

Most hated building?

There isn't one I hate. It's more to do with having bad memories, and that would be the police station at Tuffnell Park. There was an attempted robbery at a house nearby, not my own, and we couldn't get the police to come. I ran down there from Highgate which is quite a way, and well, let's say that building, the police station, didn't impress me much.

Best view in London?

The views from Ally Pally, as I said, but equally there's a great view from Parliament Hill Fields. I used to run for Highgate Harriers and there's a running track at the lower end of the fields by William Ellis School. From there, you're within touching distance of all the big spots in London.

Favourite open space?

It was a bomb site I used to play in as a kid. It was magical, mysterious and full of rubble...
Ray Davies on his favourite open space

It was a bomb site I used to play in as a kid. It was near home and for people who can remember these things, it was magical, mysterious and full of rubble. It was where we played games like cowboys and indians, and where there was a promise of times to come, leaving all the bad things like the war behind.

Most interesting shop?

I'm not an avid shopper and I don't want to give too much away, but there's a bookshop in Highgate which has been owned by the same old man since I first went in there. It's got the most wonderful collection of old, secondhand books and first editions. You go in there and the old man's asleep. As soon as you touch a book or make like you're stealing it, he wakes up. It's like something out of Dickens.

Favourite pub, bar or restaurant?

There was a time and I'm going back a few years now when I'd hang out at the Angel pub in Highgate with chums like the writer and comedian Graham Chapman [of Monty Python fame]. The Angel's heyday was in the late Seventies and we'd all meet there, until Graham said one day, "I'm bored with this place. Why don't you open a drinking club at your studio?"

So I did, and it became one of the most legendary drinking clubs in north London, full of actors and secondhand car spivs. But it got hard to stop the blurring between proper recording studio and drinking den, and in the end I think we volunteered to have it closed down (laughs).

Most memorable night out?

Graham Chapman
Writer, comedian and Monty Python member Graham Chapman is a fondly remembered drinking chum

One great night was with Graham Chapman again. It started off in the Angel and Graham, I should add, was in recovery by this time and only drinking soft drinks while we were getting more and more drunk. Another friend had broken his arm and someone's fag end went down into his plaster cast. He was jumping around screaming until they poured a pint over his arm and down the plaster. Graham intervened and said, "I'm a doctor. I can take control of the situation".

Just as we were leaving to go to Barts Hospital, a woman passed out on the pavement outside the pub. Graham immediately leapt into action, opened up her blouse and said, "It's quite alright. I'm a doctor". And she looked at him and said, "No you're not. You're a comedian!"

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?

I'd wake up really early, go for a walk on Hampstead Heath and then have a nice lunch somewhere, get a little bit drunk, stroll home and switch on the TV or go to the match and watch Arsenal win. Then I'd celebrate afterwards by having a nap and then writing a song about it. Writing is still an integral part of my day, especially on a Saturday.

Where would you take a visitor to London?

I did this a few weeks ago when my nephew, who's not much older than me, came over from Australia. We went for a drive at night to take in the sights like Buckingham Palace and across the river. It's the only time you can drive across town. Ideally though, if a person can ride a bike, that's a great way to see London.

The worst journey you've had to make in London?

I think the worst is the one we discussed earlier, trying to take people somewhere and just getting stuck in traffic. I'm a terrible motorist. I learned to drive only 15 years ago and they're trying to keep death off the roads (laughs).

Your personal London landmark?

Coming in here today I drove past Trafalgar Square and that symbolises a lot for me when I was younger and a struggling artist and I'd go to the National Gallery. It's a creative centre and there's nothing like it.

Your favourite fictional Londoner?

Again on this trip taking my nephew, we drove through Wapping and I just like this idea of Sherlock Holmes being there, in an opium den in Wapping, tracking down Fu Manchu.

Favourite London film, book or documentary?

Alfred Hitchcock
The films of Alfred Hitchcock depicting parts of London are among Davies' favourites

I love those old Alfred Hitchcock films and I also love the ones he made in America, where he used parts of London and he'd send location managers over to shoot certain parts. I'd love to look at all the thousands of feet of black and white film just shot in London and designed to be seen when people are sitting in a car or a cab, shot specifically to be rear projection.

Which time period in London, past or future, would you like to go to?

I think part of my heart is in the past but I'd like to go forward, to see what might have survived. How far forward? Just as far as the next Olympic Games.

The Kinks Choral Collection by Ray Davies and the Crouch End Festival Chorus is out now on Universal.




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